Georgia football: The 2 biggest questions I have going into the Kentucky game
This was originally supposed to be a bye-week column, a time to look ahead with Georgia’s game against Kentucky in the rearview mirror and the yearly affair against Florida approaching.
But with the pandemic, we don’t know what to expect from day-to-day. And Georgia’s week off came sooner than expected, its trip to Lexington instead delayed for Oct. 31.
It might have come at a great time, too. The Dawgs were left licking their wounds after an empty trip to Alabama, initially looking poised to potentially get one over Nick Saban and company before the Crimson Tide and their electric offense turned the tables to maintain control of the SEC.
So with an unexpected off-week having come to a close and preparations for their next game having started in earnest, here are the 2 biggest questions I have as the Bulldogs head to Lexington for a delayed showdown with the Wildcats:
1. Who starts at quarterback, and how will that affect the situation going forward?
Let’s get the big one out of the way first.
As I’ve mentioned, Kirby Smart no doubt has questions about the position. But my gut tells me that Stetson Bennett IV will start against Kentucky and that he’ll have a nice bounce-back performance after a rough go of it in Tuscaloosa.
If that happens, it would be foolish to reverse course, even if — gulp — the Dawgs end up losing to Florida in Jacksonville. While that will all but dent their College Football Playoff hopes, they’ll still have an outside chance at returning to Atlanta as SEC East champions if they take care of business in the remaining games.
But why not change things now instead of waiting?
I have to agree with Bulldogs legend Aaron Murray, who brought up a good point last week: If JT Daniels was the best option, the Southern Cal transfer would be playing right now, provided he’s as close to fully healthy as the staff says he is. Take the first part of that statement and apply it to D’Wan Mathis and Carson Beck as well.
But back to Bennett. If he spins his wheels in the 1st half against the Wildcats, it might be time to consider a switch. And if the guy who ends up relieving Bennett becomes a revelation, well, that’s more fuel for fans (rightfully) to be skeptical of Smart’s ability to correctly evaluate talent in his quarterback room.
2. With Florida looming, will the Dawgs be emotionally prepared for Kentucky?
Kentucky looked terrible in its 20-10 loss to Missouri. The Tigers outgained the Wildcats 421-145 (220-98 on the ground) and held a 26-8 edge in first downs while winning the possession battle by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.
On paper, there’s very little about this Kentucky team that should concern Georgia.
The good news for Georgia is that it’s been a group under Smart that traditionally has maintained focus from week-to-week, taking each game at a time. The bad news is that it’s prone to slow starts, preferring to lean heavily on its defense to stifle opponents later in ball games and set up its offense to eventually pull away.
By all accounts, it should easily beat the Wildcats on the road. But with the Gators waiting afterward, there’s at least that inkling of temptation to enter this one on cruise control and treat it as a “tune-up” for its annual showdown with Dan Mullen’s squad in Jacksonville.
Big mistake. While the gap between the Dawgs and Wildcats is wide, there’s no room for let-ups and relaxed attitudes. Last year’s home loss to South Carolina is a prime example of a “should have won” game that, well, the Dawgs didn’t win.
I believe that if Georgia wants to send a bit of a message after its loss to the Tide, it needs to come out of the gates swinging. Set an early tone against a battered Kentucky defense and show that while it still has a little way to go if it wants to go punch-for-punch with the Alabamas of the world, it’s more than capable of handling affairs among opponents in its own division.
I’m confident the Bulldogs will do just that. At least they should, anyway.